Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tomato Chowder with Mollet Eggs for Cook the Books: The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin and Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I first became aware of Jacques Pépin watching reruns of him on PBS, particularly enjoying the shows where he teamed up with Julia Child. There seemed to be such a fondness and respect between the two of them. Respectful is a good word to describe Pépin, along with classy, kind, charming and dashing. I was given a paperback copy of The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin several years ago from a foodie friend and loved this memoir and learning about his story. Coming across my copy a few months ago, I was inspired to read it again and to make it my pick for this round of Cook the Books

My second reading confirmed two things--I adore Pépin even more, and that this book is one of my favorite all-time foodie memoirs. Beginning with Pépin's youth in France working in his mother's kitchens during the war, his restaurant apprenticeships at a young age in Paris and his move to the United States in 1959, it's the tale of how his amazing career grew. It is fabulous storytelling about the early years of foodie television and celebrities mixing in with the happy and sad moments of his personal life. What an amazing close-to-80 years this man has had--writing over 20 cookbooks and hosting or co-hosting 13 different cooking shows over the years, but remaining humble and always retaining his passion for teaching and sharing food with others. The Apprentice is good reading for anyone and pure nirvana for foodies.

When it comes to food inspiration, the book is of course chock full of it with Jacques' memories, along with a couple of dozen of his favorite recipes throughout the book. I was set on making the Les Oeufs Jeannette (Eggs Jeannette), a dish of stuffed eggs created by his maman but then I stumbled across his Tomato Chowder with Mollet Eggs recipe online and became somewhat obsessed by this simple tomato soup topped with a crouton, cheese, and most importantly a gorgeous soft-cooked egg. Poetry in my mind. Put a runny-yolked egg on most anything and I am a happy girl--and I liked the description of how the eggs were cooked. It might not seem like a summery dish but I eat soup all year round and the recipe does call for sweet cherry tomatoes--so perfect and abundant this time of year, and fresh spring onions. This is a truly gorgeous bowl of soup that eats like a meal. 

Jacques says, "A French favorite, mollet (moll-ay) eggs are similar to poached eggs in texture, with runny yolks and soft whites. The eggs are cooked in their shells in barely boiling water for about 6 minutes, then thoroughly cooled and carefully shelled. This basic tomato soup, topped with the eggs and large croutons made from country-style bread, can be made vegetarian by replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock or water."

Tomato Chowder with Mollet Eggs
From Essential Pépin via KQED
(Serves 4) 

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1 1/4 cups)
6 scallions, trimmed (leaving some green) and chopped (3/4 cup)
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
3 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups homemade chicken stock or low-salt chicken broth (I used veggie broth)
12 oz cherry tomatoes
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage
1 15-oz can plum tomatoes 

4 slices country-style bread, preferably stale, for croutons
2 tsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove
4 large eggs

1/2 cup grated Gruyère or Emmenthaler cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel saucepan. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the onion, scallions, carrot, and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on top of the mixture, stir thoroughly, and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring. Mix in the stock.

Meanwhile, process the cherry tomatoes in a food processor until coarsely chopped. (You should have about 1 1/2 cups.) Add the cherry tomatoes to the soup, along with the salt, pepper, thyme, and sage. Process the can of plum tomatoes for 5 seconds, and add to the soup. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes. (Note: I pureed about 1/3 of the cooked soup in a blender then added it back into the pot.) 

Meanwhile, prepare the garnishes: 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.Brush the bread slices with the olive oil and arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until nicely browned. Rub one side of the croutons with the garlic clove, and set them aside. (Note: I pan-toasted my bread instead before rubbing them with garlic)

Using a thumbtack or pushpin, make a hole in the rounded end of each egg. Gently lower the eggs into a pan containing enough boiling water to cover them and cook for about 6 minutes in barely boiling water. Drain the hot water from the pan and shake the pan to crack the shells of the eggs on all sides. Fill the pan with ice and water and set the eggs aside to cool completely.

When the eggs are cool, peel them carefully (so as not to damage the yolks, which are still runny) under cool running water. Keep the eggs in cold water until just before serving. (The eggs can be cooked up to a few hours ahead and refrigerated in the cold water.)

At serving time, drain the cold water from the eggs and replace it with hot tap water. Let stand for 5 minutes, so the eggs are lukewarm inside. 

Bring the soup to a strong boil, and ladle it into four bowls. Place an egg in the center of each bowl, and wait for a couple of minutes for the eggs to warm in the center. Place a crouton in each bowl and serve, sprinkled with the cheese. 

Notes/Results: I LOVED this soup--such good flavor--sweet and savory but really set off by the toppings--as my favorite soups usually are. ;-) I recommend making extra croutons as they are crispy, garlicky and perfect for dipping into the tomatoy-eggy broth and the caved-aged Gruyere that melts into it all. The soft-cooked eggs are amazing but they completely stressed me out. I am sure that Jacques' nimble fingers have no problem peeling them and keeping them in one piece but I felt more like Lennie in Of Mice and Men 'petting' a soft bunny and trying hard not to crush it. ;-) I had to include the photos of my first egg casualty on the collage--that came from my shaking the pan to crack the shells on all sides per the recipe. I swear I did it gently but one egg just imploded (lucky I made 5 total). So, I stopped shaking the pan and after cooling the eggs, started carefully peeling them. They were tricky little buggers--not at all willing to give up their shells easily. I ended up with two that looked pretty good, the others were a bit rough looking so I suggest you make a few extra--just in case you are serving this to company. Still, despite my egg challenges, once they hit the soup and are sliced open, the creamy yolk released, I was a happy camper and who cares how they look?! A wonderful soup--both classy and homey and relaxing, reminiscent of Pépin himself. I will make it again (and own that egg perfection next time).

The deadline for this round of Cook the Books is this Thursday, July 31st and I'll be posting the round up shortly afterward on the CTB site. If you missed joining in on this one, the lovely Debra of Eliot's Eats will be hosting our August / September round and taking us to Italy for A Thousand Days in Venice, by Marlena De Blasi. 

Friends await in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's take a look.

My pal Rachel, The Crispy Cook has a Pépin-inspired dish this week, her Jacques' Venison Revenge Ragout. She says, "... I decided to create something with venison, in reference to the most harrowing incident related in the book: Pepin's nighttime car accident with a deer that left him with a broken back, two broken hips, a broken leg, cracked pelvis and a left arm that was so badly fractured that his surgeon considered amputating it. What an ordeal! But Pepin doesn't dwell on that incident, and segues into his subsequent experiences in teaching cooking classes, working with corporate clients and writing cookbooks. But I feel Jacques should have his revenge against that kamikaze deer with a venison dish, so I pulled some venison stew meat that we had in the freezer care of Dan's hunting cousin and put together a delicately seasoned venison stew."

Mireille of Chef Mireille's East West Realm shares this creamy Celeriac Parsnip Soup and says, "Both celeriac and parsnip are used a lot in European cuisine, but non existent in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Even here in America, they are under used. I like both of these vegetables a lot. If you grate celery root, you can make a delicious slaw with it, as long as you have a dressing that has some vinegar in it to soften it. It also makes a great mash when combined with potatoes. Parsnip puree is absolutely delicious. Just boil until very soft and puree. Virtually no additional seasoning will be necessary because of the natural sweetness. Here is a delicious soup with these two under used vegetables." 

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food brings a crunchy Celery, Carrot, Cashew Nut Salad and says, "This no-fuss three-ingredient, dressing ingredient not included, side-dish salad is easy to prepare (no stir-frying required) and if you are thinking of making more and storing in the fridge, the good news is, it also keeps well (~ two days) in the fridge. For a non-spicy dressing, omit the chili "sauce" in this dressing. Personally, I prefer sesame oil as one of the components in a dressing for Asian-style salads or side-dishes; while using extra-virgin olive oil or flax oil for Mediterranean-style bean-based salads".

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog made this wonderful Vegan Caprese Salad Appetizer and says, "Looking for a vegan appetizer or supersalad? This one is perfect. Just one look at this incredible creation and you will understand why you it tastes amazing even without the traditional cheese that we usually find in a Caprese salad. This is my vegan version of a tomato and Mozzarella Caprese salad appetizer. I substituted avocado for the sliced mozzarella. I served this salad appetizer at a party  a few weeks ago. Believe me when I tell you that here was not a morsel left. Believe me when I tell you that nobody missed the cheese."

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!


  1. www.teczcape.blogspot.comJuly 27, 2014 at 6:59 PM

    I did not know soft-cooked eggs has another name: mollet eggs! It reminded me of the Japanese way of cooking their eggs - Ajitsuke Tamago, to go with ramen

  2. That looks like my idea of heaven! Sadly I haven't got around to playing this round of Cook the Books, although I've always liked Jacques Pepin.

  3. I love that runny yolk mixed in with the rich tomato soup! What a fabulous pairing.

  4. Jacques Pepin always seems like such a true gentleman and his recipes are always so classic and somewhat sophisticated. I'd still love to cook with him for 6 months at IHCC. I have his Eggs Jeanette pinned to make and now I'm going to pin this one as well. Looks incredible, Deb!

  5. Jacques Pepin always seems like such a true gentleman and his recipes
    are always so classic and somewhat sophisticated. I'd still love to cook
    with him for 6 months at IHCC. I have his Eggs Jeanette pinned to make
    and now I'm going to pin this one as well.
    Looks incredible, Deb!

  6. Thanks for picking such a lovely book for Cook the Books. I enjoyed it tremendously and I will probably read and re-read portions of it in the future.

    But I will have to respectfully pass on your soup. I'm a hard yolk kind of gal since childhood, so the soup without the mullet, I mean mollet, eggs are for me!

  7. Thanks Debra! It is one of the best soups I have made recently. ;-) Glad you liked the book!

  8. Nice selection from this book. I like poaches eggs but rarely find them offered in restaurant. Have to do it at home. Tomato chowder looks great. I am a big fan of soups :-)

  9. OMG that soup looks so lovely and delicious. Thanks so much for hosting and allowing me to join in the fun.

  10. Thanks for organizing the Cook the Books roundup! I love tomatoes and I love soup so will have to try this (minus the eggs....) Cathy from Delaware Girl Eats

  11. What a great choice of recipe! I must try these eggs: runny yolk? Count me in. Beautiful presentation too. Thank you for such an inspiring book selection.

  12. Great book and round-up Deb, I certainly enjoyed it, and so many inspiring recipes to choose from. Now must try this soup.


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